Illustrated Biwa Performance/lecture Series

Biwa and the Tale of Heike
Japanese Tales of the Supernatural
The Tale of Genji
Samurai Legends-Warrior ethics, Romance and Tragedy
Women's Stories-Female Virtue in Medeival Japan

(All programs include an outline of the history of the Biwa instrument)

Program: Biwa and The Tale of the Heike

This musical and academic event is illustrated with many projected images. Yoko performs classic biwa compositions, all episodes illustrating the amours, battles and tragedies suffered by both warring clans, the Minamoto and Taira clans of 12th century Japan, and illuminates some of the Buddhist undertones that are woven into the tapestry of the book.

In this way she is bringing to life the Tale as it has been done for centuries, with singing voice and a dynamic and expressive biwa accompaniment.

She explains the development of the biwa as an instrument, from origins as diverse as sutra chanting monks and the formal Gagaku orchestra.

Librettos of all the sung pieces are provided to audiences in both English and phonetic Japanese.

Chikuzen Biwa (Click for Youtube video):Gion Shoja

Program: Japanese Tales of The Supernatural

Biwa storytellers have enthralled audiences with classic ghost stories from antiquity. Ms. Hiraoka chooses several of these tales and illustrates her sung performance with images from the stories. Stories include: Miminashi Hoichi, Hagoromo, Adachi ga hara, Tsuchigumo etc.

Program: The Tale of Genji

Yoko takes several stories from the classic novel and elaborates them in song and music, delighting in the court mores and vicciissitudes of its famous protaganist, Prince Genji. Stories include: Yugao, Momiji no Ga, Kiritsubo etc.

Program: Samurai Legends-Warrior Ethics, Romance and Tragedy

The lives, ethics, amours, battles and tragedies of the Samurai warrior are elebrated in classic sung tales from medieval times, illustrated with many projected images. Stories include Dan no Ura, Nasu no Yoichi, Atsumori etc.

Program: Women's Stories-Female Virtue in Medeival Japan

In stories from different tales, the role of women is elaborated in classic sung episodes, illustrating the portrayal of women in medieval court and samurai culture. Stories include Kita no sho, Hotoke Gozen, Kogou etc.

For performance enquiries please contact Yoko Hiraoka: email

Yoko Hiraoka

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The opening passages of the Tale of Heike

Gion Shoja

Gion shoja no kane no koe
shogyou mujo no hibiki ari
sara soju no hana no iro
josha hissui no kotowari o arawasu
ogoreru mono hisasi karazu
tada haru no yo no yume no gotoshi
takeki hito mo tsui niwa horobinu
hitoe ni kaze no mae no chiri ni onaji

Gion Shoja

The sound of the bells at the Gion temple
Echoes the impermanence of all things;
The color of the sala flowers
Reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline.
The proud do not endure,
They are like a passing dream on a spring night;
The mighty fall at last,
They are as dust before the wind.